CHICAGO --- Wireless technologies innovator Qualcomm Incorporated has given the Searle Center at Northwestern University School of Law $2 million to fund research that will investigate the role of patents in incentivizing technological innovation.
“Technology is evolving in an increasingly complex legal environment,” said Matthew Spitzer, director of the Searle Center and the Howard and Elizabeth Chapman Professor.
“Critics claim that patents may, in some cases, limit technological advancement,” he said. “There is a lot of discussion about ‘patent thickets,’ ‘hold-up’ and ‘royalty stacking’ and how these constructs could hinder innovation, but there is surprisingly little actual data out there. Our project will create the needed data sets and allow the critics’ claims to be tested.”
Dan Spulber, Elinor Hobbs Distinguished Professor of International Business and Professor of Management Strategy in the Kellogg School of Management, will play the central role in executing this program. As project director, Spulber will oversee the intellectual structure and the practical implementation of the project through its roundtable meetings and large conferences and in a special issue of the Journal of Economics & Management Strategy each year.
Spulber sums up the aims of the project in this way: “Technology standards and standards organizations play a central role in innovation economics. We have a lot more to learn about the connections between patents, technology standards and innovative activity. This project will help to fill in that gap.”
The grant will make it possible for the Searle Center to create a series of related databases to collate information regarding standards, licensing, litigation and markets for patents. Scholars will be able to use these data to better understand how inventive activity occurs, how it is commercialized and what might be done to facilitate future innovation. The grant also funds a series of conferences and roundtables to examine and improve research in the field.
“Understanding the role intellectual property law has in facilitating -- or, as some might argue, in hindering -- technological innovation is crucial to future commercialization efforts,” said Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean and the Harold Washington Professor at the School of Law. “Qualcomm is a visionary company, and we are looking forward to a fruitful and productive partnership.”Qualcomm ideas and inventions have driven the evolution of wireless communications around the globe. Founded in 1985, Qualcomm today is the world’s largest supplier of chipsets for mobile devices.